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In 2012 alone, more than 1.8 million contacts were made with Fort Bend County Libraries – to get help on homework assignments, to improve job skills, to attend a human-interest program like gardening or crafting, or to simply relax with a good book. Thousands of people of all ages, income levels, and backgrounds visit the library every year in search of knowledge and the chance to improve their lives. Brainfuse is happy to play a part in this important impact on the lives of children.

Fort Bend

Where lifelong educational opportunities abound

from Herald Staff

In 2012 alone, more than 1.8 million contacts were made with Fort Bend County Libraries – to get help on homework assignments, to improve job skills, to attend a human-interest program like gardening or crafting, or to simply relax with a good book.

Thousands of people of all ages, income levels, and backgrounds visit the library every year in search of knowledge and the chance to improve their lives.

Beginning with the youngest library patron, many of the libraries offer Mother Goose Time for infants to children 12 months of age. This multi-sensory circle-time activity incorporates simple sign language, folksongs and lullabies, and finger plays that are designed to stimulate babies’ social, emotional, and physical development through rhythm and music.

The library has age-appropriate activities and stories to help children hone their motor skills as well as their reading abilities.

“The kids are having so much fun at these weekly programs that they don’t even realize they’ve learned something new,” says Susan King, youth services coordinator for the library system.

“Research shows that children who are read to from an early age have a larger vocabulary and better language skills when they start school.

“Parents can give their children a life-long advantage if they start to encourage their children to develop a love for books and reading at an early age. Children who are good readers are usually the most successful learners.”

Youth Programs

In the youth departments at each location, the libraries also have special Early Literacy Stations – computers equipped with more than 60 diverse, educational software programs.

The programs on these learning stations cover all curriculum areas while touching on all of the Five Practices of Early Literacy that are part of the Every Child Ready to Read program, including talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.

“Best of all, the Early Literacy Stations make learning really fun,” says King. “The kids love them.”

Many school children turn to the library’s free online Homework Help (Brainfuse) tutoring service, which provides assistance in a broad range of subjects in both English and Spanish for students in grades K through 12, free of charge.

This tutoring program is an Internet-based service that provides patrons with live, on-demand homework help, seven days a week, from 3 to 11 p.m.

Certified tutors are experienced in math, science, social studies, and English/Language Arts.

Students also count on the library’s online databases for reliable information on science, history, and literary subjects.

The databases include research information that the Internet search engines such as Google or Yahoo cannot access, and they include citation assistance as well.

In 2012, the library’s databases, including the Homework Help resource, were used more than 97,000 times.

Adult Programs

The learning does not stop when library users reach adulthood.

For those people looking for a chance to improve their lives, support their families, and contribute to their community, the library’s adult literacy program can be the key to opening up a broader range of opportunities.

Nearly 3,300 adults took advantage of the free English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) and Basic Literacy classes in 2012, receiving more than 6,600 hours of free tutoring.

Mary Hulse, literacy assistant for Fort Bend County Libraries, receives satisfaction when she sees the people that she and the other tutors have helped go on and achieve their goals.

“I have an ESL student who took advantage of our classes for a number of years, and finally felt confident enough in her English-speaking ability to apply for a job at a pharmacy in the area,” says Hulse.

“One of my GED students had passed every other section of the GED, but struggled with the math section. We set her up with a math tutor in March, and in May she finally passed that last part.

“She wants to keep working with our program so that she can improve her writing and reading-comprehension skills.”

For those who struggle with a fear of tests, careers that require a certification test or entrance exam may seem out of reach.

The library has a resource with practice tests that can be taken over and over until the individual feels ready for the real test: LearningExpress Library.

This resource offers practice exams for a variety of fields, such as civil service jobs (for example — firefighters, EMTs, postal workers, and police officers), careers in teaching, nursing, real estate, and much more.

This resource also has practice tests for the SAT and ACT exams, and for the U.S. citizenship test.

The libraries offer introductory computer and technology classes.

The digital photography classes have been popular with people who want to share their pictures through email or on Facebook.

Some of the best library resources are sometimes the people.

Megan Lederer, adult programming manager for the libraries, works with each of the libraries to help plan human-interest programs that reflect the unique identity and needs of each community in Fort Bend County.

Once they identify a need or an interest, Lederer and the other program planners look for experts in that field who can come to the library and share their expertise.

“Some communities really like the life-skills classes like gardening, canning food, or decorating cupcakes, while other groups want classes on retirement planning, investment research, or job-skills improvement,” says Lederer.

“Classes that demonstrate new hobbies, like knitting, geocaching, or scrapbooking, are also very popular.”

Sometimes speakers come to share their life experience.

“One of our speakers, Don Cooper, is a retired NASA physicist who worked on the Apollo missions,” says Lederer. “Hearing about his first-hand experience was a priceless opportunity.”

The late John Allwright, who volunteered at the library’s Local History and Genealogy department, wrote down his memories of growing up in Rosenberg in the early 1900s, and had his memoir published.

Sales proceeds benefited the department in which he had devoted so many years.

“The personal experiences of these individuals bring color and detail to our past that can’t always be found in history books,” says Lederer.

“So much of what the library is all about involves sharing information and learning new things.

“Whether our patrons start coming to the library as infants or in later stages of their lives, we’re determined to help them learn new things, expand their circle of knowledge, and find the answers to whatever their questions may be, no matter how big or small.”